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Rock Like It’s 2007!

Although you probably won’t find them in an antique store, up until this past spring it was a common notion that music rhythm games such as Harmonix Music Systems’ Rock Band were a thing of the past. With garage sales and thrift stores piled high with plastic instruments, most gamers would tell you that the age of the music rhythm game has come and gone, and who am I to disagree? 

My personal fond memories of rocking out to Freebird aside, I viewed these games as a passing fad that had seen their best days behind them. Imagine my surprise when Harmonix Music Systems announced Rock Band 4 for PS4 and Xbox One in early March 2015. “Why can’t they let a good thing go?” I thought as I read the announcement article.

I was initially unimpressed with Harmonix attempting to revive the Rock Band series. There was no apparent attempt to reinvent the wheel when it came to the series’ physical hardware, with Harmonix even going so far as to promote compatibility for old instruments. However, I would soon learn about a very clever move that piqued my interest. Ladies and gentlemen, make some noise for the Rock Band Road Crew program!

Eligible Rock Band fans were encouraged to apply for a spot in the Rock Band Road Crew and, if accepted, received “exclusive swag, free DLC, and even free Rock Band 4 hardware!” Further reading revealed that accepted members could earn points redeemable for rewards by participating in various challenges (known as “gigs”). These gigs included tasks such as writing a social media post or taking photos playing the game with others.

Directly engaging the Rock Band fan community in this way is an interesting strategy. Harmonix enabled their fans to help promote the game while developing a sense of exclusivity by having an application process for the truly devoted. In turn, fans accepted into the program were rewarded for their efforts.

The promotion seems to be highly successful – YouTube has over 500 video submissions from the application process alone. For the most part, Rock Band 4 has received positive reviews. Although there have been some issues regarding inaccessible downloadable content, Harmonix seems to be hard at work with solutions. The brand has taken several steps to fix in-game problems, releasing several “patches” as they become available.

With the release of such a major title, it was safe to assume that not everything would run smoothly, but Harmonix is keeping the communication lines open. On the official Rock Band Forums, there are over 80,000 discussions and almost two million comments. If you have a question, it seems someone has an answer.  With the holiday season rapidly approaching, Rock Band 4 is expected to be a big seller. But in what capacity? We shall see.

Rock on!

~ Andrew Meyers, Intern, The S3 Agency


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